Tell me if this situation sounds familiar… You’ve been eating well and exercising steadily, and progressively the pounds have been yielding.
Then, all of a sudden, BAM! The scale seems stuck.
And not just for one day, but for week after week. And, no matter how closely you follow your diet program, that scale Just Won’t Budge.
Impossible to manage? Absolutely not.
You’ve hit a plateau. Something that nearly everyone trying to lose weight experiences.
What’s going on?
A few factors fall into play when it comes to a plateau. Back when you first started your diet, the weight seemed to slide off, almost too easily. That’s because the “weight” coming off was mostly water.
As you cut calories, your body tapped into its stores of glycogen, a type of carbohydrate found in the muscles and liver. Glycogen holds on to water, so when glycogen is burned for energy, water comes off with it.
But there’s only so long that water-weight loss can continue, so after a few weeks, your weight loss slowed down as that water weight turned to actual fat loss. (And with it, some muscle mass came off as well).
Unfortunately, the less fat and muscle mass you have, the fewer calories your body needs to function.
In other words, now that you’re 160 pounds, you’re burning less energy walking up a flight of steps, reaching for the remote or doing a load of laundry than you did back when you weighed 180.
And that means you need fewer calories day to day… about 100 to 150 calories less… to maintain your leaner 160-pound body.
So you’ll need to either boost your activity or trim your food intake by the same amount to compensate.
Stop right there, put your hands in the air and step away from the cookie jar!
I know it’s frustrating, but all is not lost. This is the time you’ve got to dig deep and do something differently. And if that approach doesn’t work, switch it up again.
The good thing is that there are dozens of diet divergences you can try to get that scale moving again. Here are seven strategies you can test out:
Plateau Buster #1: Write it down
When you’re getting close to your goal, you may unwittingly get a little sloppy. Now’s a good time to record everything you put in your mouth over the course of a few days.
That means everything. Yes, your daughter’s leftover chicken nuggets (even just a few nibbles!), the taste of your husband’s chocolate cake (worth every calorie!) and the macaroni and cheese that would have gone bad in the fridge had you not eaten it (eh, could have done without that).
By seeing it in print, you may realize that you’re taking in more calories than you thought.
Plateau Buster #2: Cut the Cocktails
Many dieters don’t realize that alcohol has a lot of calories. A glass or two of wine a night can easily total over 1,000 calories over the course of a week.
And mixed drinks? Aside from the alcohol itself, the fruit juice added can add up to inches around your waistline. Try cutting out alcohol altogether for a week or two and see if the scale goes down.
Plateau Buster #3: Try Carb Cycling
Carb what? Sure it sounds fancy, but carb cycling is pretty simple. It’s eating more carbohydrates on some days to fill up your glycogen stores to fuel muscle-building exercise, and fewer carbohydrates on other days to help boost fat burning.
Here’s what it would look like:
On low-carb days, stick to plenty of protein and good fats. For carbs, choose non-starchy vegetables and whole fruits (preferably berries)—no grains on those days at all.
On higher carb days, maintain your high protein intake, but reduce your fat intake to allow for more carbs. Choose healthy carbs such as vegetables, including starchy veggies like dried beans, peas, lentils, sweet potatoes, and winter squash, and true whole grains like barley, buckwheat, millet, steel-cut oats, or wild rice.
Plateau Buster #4: Build muscle, and make it work
It’s easy to go cardio happy, spending an hour or two on a beautiful morning walk and skipping the weight training altogether. But muscle uses more calories to maintain itself than other body tissue.
So while you may burn 300 or so calories on that brisk walk, you could be torching more calories throughout the rest of the day if you’re packing more muscle on your body with regular weight training.
Try compound exercises—moves that involve more than one joint, such as squats, lunges, and leg presses—to activate more total muscle, increasing both calorie burn and strength.
Experiment with using free weights rather than exercise machines. Weight machines isolate a joint, thus working a single muscle or muscle group, while free weights enlist other muscles throughout the body to maintain stability, form, and alignment. More muscles working means more calories being burned.
Plateau Buster #5: Make Your Calories Confusing
Another idea to overcome weight loss plateaus is to bamboozle your metabolism. To do this, mix up the calories you’re taking in. One day, eat a few hundred calories less than your normal intake. The next day, eat a few hundred more.
That way your body doesn’t know how many calories are coming in on any given day so it keeps working every day to keep up the calorie burn. Just make sure that your calorie intake for the entire week stays below the number you need for weight loss.
Plateau Buster #6: Forget About the Numbers
Weight loss isn’t just about the scale. Okay, sure it’s important. But it doesn’t tell the whole story. Take a look at the bigger picture… the other strides that you’ve made.
Maybe you could only run 10 minutes on the treadmill last month but now you can run 15. Maybe your pants fit just the tiniest bit better now. Perhaps you have more pep in your step, you’re able to play with your children or grandchildren without getting winded. Your blood pressure is down, you’re sleeping better at night.
All these things count too! Embrace them and celebrate all your accomplishments. You may just find being patient is all you need to start that scale moving again.
Plateau Buster #7: Cut Out Fruit
It may sound surprising, but fruit can keep the scale stuck. Fruit contains high amounts of a specific type of sugar called fructose. And too much fructose can shift your liver into overdrive, which ramps up fat production.
The result is a double whammy: higher levels of blood lipids (not good for your heart health) AND more belly fat.
Try cutting fruits out for a week or two and see if that makes the scale less stagnant. And just remember, cutting out fruit doesn’t have to mean missing out on its antioxidant benefits. That’s the main reason we came up with our product, RealReds. Just one small serving has the protective power of four servings of fruit … with just 30 calories and 7 grams of net carbs.
I hope I’ve given you a few fun things to try to get that scale going downward again. If you have any other ideas, I’d love to hear them. I’m always looking for new and exciting things that I can share with our customers. Be sure to comment here, or write me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Steve Sisskind, M.D.
Hi, I'm Dr. Steve Sisskind, Chief Medical Officer & Founder at RealDose Nutrition.
As a young physician, I struggled because my patients came to me with serious health issues, but I didn't have the right tools to help them. Medical school taught me how to put "band aids" on their symptoms with drugs and surgery, but not how to address the root causes of their problems.
Years later I discovered a better approach... based on the fundamental idea that the power of nutrition can transform your health and vitality. But there's a lot of confusion... What foods should I eat? Which supplements should I take? What does the science say?
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